There was a knock at the door and I went to answer it, leaving my quick lunch behind. As I opened it I saw David standing there, looking panicked with an SMG at his side. His chest also looked a bit different under his shirt.
"We need to go." He said quickly, grabbing and pulling me through the doorway. I didn't even have time to think. He dragged me down the staircase and I worried someone would see his gun and start a real panic. But nobody was around. I felt too much relief every second we avoided contact with other people to be suspicious. He stopped at the front door to my building and peered out into the street, weapon in hand. Then he looked at me and said "Come on, we gotta go." gesturing outside. The terror in his face made me forget what I was about to say to him to get him to slow down, and all I could think was to stay with him. If he was scared, everyone should be.
We dashed across the street which was also abandoned and into an alleyway next to the old warehouse that'd been abandoned since the war. He pushed gently a metal door, checked past me to the street again, and gestured me to follow. I had no idea what was going on, and rational thoughts flooded into my brain.
"Wait" I said as we entered "David, what the hell is going on? Come on, let's go-"
"We can't go back!" He said quickly and forcefully, fear still in his voice "You have to come with me! I've already got Gaby, and I called the others, they should be there already!"
"What are you talking about??"
Just as I said this, I heard a loud rumble outside. Sirens, alarms, alerts and all manner of other municipal order systems boomed across the city. The color drained from David's face and his breathing slowed.
"You hear those sounds?"
"The city's starting a district sweep! They're clearing out our area for rebel activity, you've got to come with me!"
"Alright, can't I go get some stuff?"
"No! There's no time! They only start the sirens when CP has already started!" I then heard vehicles driving down the street outside. Crashing, shouting and shooting ensued.
"Follow me." He said in a dead whisper. He lead me to a trap-door on the floor and we climbed down the ladder into the sewers. We entered a larger tunnel directly under my street, and above me I could see soldiers dashing about, vehicles and bodies. Some people were being lined up against buildings, cars, before being shot by firing squads of SS death-squads. Then I saw with horror my own neighbor being thrown from her window. The soldiers stepped aside as she vanished from my grate's view. When I looked at David, I saw he'd been watching too. He gestured down the tunnel behind him and we both moved in silence.
The tunnel opened up to the train yard, which entered through several large tunnels at the north end and was bordered by over 30 feet of concrete on the east and west sides as it funneled into a single tunnel at the are we'd just come in through. The west side was a kind of balcony, and I knew that some CP stations were there. The walkway also continued along just above the tunnel entrance and into another CP outpost. David looked calculatingly at the open space just outside of the artificial cave's shadowy mouth. Then he said, not looking at me
"Let's go." And he got up and moved along the east side, which had some doors leading to a factory on the other side of the concrete wall. We moved from still train car to still train car, and every time he would peer up at the ledges to the west and south. As we reached the half-way point, I barely saw two CP officers as I ducked behind the overturned train car David had reached. There was a hissing and snapping around me and some of the concrete exploded sporadically. I realized they were shooting at me and I looked over to see David climb up a small mound of earth, look over the top of the car and shoot back with his SMG! I shouted at him in shock but he continued firing. As the shooting slowed I chanced a look around the car and saw only one CP officer. Then David fired a small burst of rounds and he crumpled from his half-crouch.
"David!" I exclaimed in horror "You just shot someone! You killed them!"
"I was returning fire! They shot first! It was self-defense!" He yelled back, the adrenalin still fresh in his veins. "If I hadn't killed them they'd have killed us!"
"Well come on! Let's go!" I said, realizing that we'd just gotten into a firefight with CP officers just outside at least two Civil Protection stations. This seemed to jerk David back and he nodded firmly, his face set. We ran like hell down the wall now, disregarding the train cars, which were now getting fewer and fewer as we progressed. As we made it to the train tunnels at the north end, I heard more snaps and zips and turned to see at least five more CP soldiers on the walkway above the south tunnel. I looked forward to see David keeling at the edge of the tunnel, his weapon raised and popping off controlled shots. He looked at me and gestured slightly to his right, where there the wall moved away several feet to expand the corner.
"That grate lifts up!" He told me and I looked, now hidden from the flying bullets, to see a metal grate over a drainage trench that tunneled under the train yard. I stuck my fingers into it and pulled up. It lifted away, but it was heavy. I dropped it aside and he said "Good enough! Get in!" I slid in and found that the trench was six feet deep and equally wide. I looked back up to see David jumping down, pulling the grate back over the hole as he did so. It slid perfectly into position and I heard an explosion down the north tunnel above. He turned to me in the dim light and explained
"I threw a grenade down the train tunnel, to make them think we went that way instead of taking this route. But they'll be up there so keep quiet."
"Dude, where are we?" I asked, knowing that it wasn't just a drainage tunnel.
"There's some people down here, hiding out. I sent Gaby down here and told the others how to get here though another route. Down that way." He pointed down the tunnel leading south-south-west, almost back the way we'd just come. Now I saw a dim, flickering light hidden by some dark shapes. David reloaded his gun "Let's go."
We walked down the tunnel and came up on some scrap metal, forming a wall with a doorway in it. But there was no door, just another wall with a slit that forced us to take a direct right and then a direct left through a second doorway. As we entered David called softly but nobody answered. The light was emanating from a fire directly under a pipe that lead into the cement wall behind it. There were some couches, a desk, and several boxes along with cutlery and a make-shift stove with a car battery. Random objects were sitting where they'd been left clearly minutes ago and a folded note stood on a desk. David walked over, took it, read it, and handed it to me. It read:
"Doc, We've still got Gaby and about a dozen you called came in. Three went back for other family and friends when they found out what was happening. We decided to head to Newman's hideout just in case. Come find us, but be on the lookout for anymore people. Echo."
As I read the word 'family' it hit me that mine was probably dead, or about to be. I wanted to go to them more than anything, and maybe if David came we could save them. But reality hit me and I knew we wouldn't stand a chance. Then I noticed there was a backside to the note and read "The explosives are under the Party Barge." Looking up in confusion I saw David reach under the couch and drag out a bulgy backpack. He put it on and I laughed saying
"'Party Barge.'" He grinned and said back
"Yeah, that's what we named it." He looked somewhat mournfully back at the couch in deep thought. I put the letter back on the desk and he seemed to come back.
"Okay, we've got to get going."
"What're the explosives for and where is this 'Newman's hideout'?"
"Newman's hideout is in the factory across the canal locks from the CP District 4 Headquarters. Right under their noses."
"That's awesome!" I said, but some foreboding filled in my stomach and brain.
"Yeah, to get there we have to go through another hideout in the old city sewers, two municipal service tunnels and cross the open lock to get to the side door."
"Yeah, I know it's kinda risky but we gotta do it. There's plenty of cover behind machinery and stuff. We'll be fine, we've done it plenty of times before with large groups." He must've been talking about the people we'd just missed in the tunnel.
"Alright, let's move."
We walked down the tunnel and came to a cave-in that made a perfect ramp up to a steel grate above. David opened it and climbed out. He stayed low and kept a look out while I got up to him. We put back the grate and I saw with astonishment that we were across from the very tunnel we'd used when escaping my street. We'd gone trough all that trouble just to cross four railroad tracks to the other side of the freaking south tunnel!
"Why did we go through all that trouble?!" I asked him exasperatedly.
"To throw them off, see? They're looking down the tunnel." I looked and had to strain my eyes before I saw dim flashlights and headlights moving further and further down the north tunnel, towards the edge of the city. I looked at David and he gestured for me to follow as he entered a doorway into a municipal service tunnel. We walked down the clean, dim, blue-lit tunnel until we reached a hole in the wall, leading into some darker, orange and brown looking tunnels, lined with ancient concrete and stone. We moved down these muskier tunnels for five minutes in silence before our suddenly ended into a well lit room with some mattresses, a desk, refrigerator, stove, television set and an improvised bathroom at the far end, made of parts of fences and thin strips of metal all welded together. This outpost, too, was abandoned with, rather than a note, directions scribbled across the desk in thick black marker. They told to go to Newman's place, but didn't give specific directions. Probably to keep it secret from CP.
David walked across the room next to the bathroom. I realized now that it wasn't up against the far wall, and I also saw why. At this end of the room there was another tunnel that passed by, temporarily becoming a five-foot-deep trench in the room, before going underground again and opening up to another room a few feet further down.
"Eww." I said, knowing that the bathroom and possibly hundreds more emptied into the small river of slime passing under us.
"Smells like shit..." David said grimly but acknowledging my thoughts.
"Literally!" And we both laughed. David seemed to force himself as he jumped in, I just did it without thinking to make it easier. There were random steel grates to stop tunnel rats like us along the way, but they all had been bent or cut. We followed this tunnel only for about twenty yards before we found stairs that lead to the left. The nearest grate was still intact, so we had no choice but to go, thankfully, up. David was particularly relieved to be out of the sewage, shaking the bottom of his pant legs and shoes to rid them of anything he'd picked up along the way. I just shook out my shoes, because I was wearing shorts. We walked up the stairs and they opened up to another, well-kept municipal service tunnel. David lead the way down it and as we reached a large room serving as a power sub-station he turned to me looking serious.
"Do you trust me?" He asked.
"Yeah!" I said, almost automatically
"There's something I have to do, it's dangerous, do you want to help me with it?"
"What is it?"
"There's a secret CP command and data base this way, I have to blow it up." He gestured at the backpack. "I'd need you to carry this while I fight the guards. You wanna come?" I thought about CP and thought about all the abuse they'd inflicted up on us, then I remembered what drove us down here and said firmly
"Alright. Let's go." He handed me the pack and I put it on, noting how heavy it was and that I didn't want it to get shot, then I realized I didn't want to get shot myself either. Now the nerves set in at what we were about to do. If this was really a base--and a secret one at that--it would be well protected. I just decided to follow David. We ducked into a side tunnel instead of entering through the small doorway at the station's end. It opened up to over twenty feet high and I realized that this was now part of the base, which was one big room with another two-story concrete structure in the middle. We walked under a catwalk just as a CP soldier crossed it, clanging loudly as we tried to silence the water around our feet. When he'd passed I could hear voices. The other people above and ahead of us were laughing, joking and talking casually. It made me furious to hear.
At the end of our tunnel, there was a ledge to the left as the room opened up to it. On this side of the center structure, the second floor was obscured by a chain-link fence. David whispered to me to wait until he moved around the middle's corner to follow. I nodded and he got ready. He swung around the corner making a small splash and opened fire. I heard several shouts and at least two people fall down. Then he moved up and more shooting ensued. There was radio chatter from above and I realized that the command post must be on the second floor. I looked and just saw David round the next corner. He was leaving a small kitchen and storage area that I now entered to follow. I stayed close to the middle's wall to avoid being seen from above as I went. David reloaded and continued to shoot just out of view. I made sure the backpack was still secure and decided to follow again.
Now I caught up to him in this hall, which had shelves lining one side, and saw a lounge area in the corner up ahead. David continued firing and ducking back behind the middle's wall as bullets chased after him. Then he went out and moved completely across the hall, firing quick bursts. Then I saw him get hit as his shirt sleeve rippled and tore. He grimaced and yelled with surprised pain but recovered quickly, the anguish still in his face. He moved up and I saw he'd cleared the entry check-point we'd decided not to take and moved up the staircase. I noticed that it was heavily barricaded and wondered why the tunnel we'd taken was so easily invaded. More shooting from above and David called
"Come on!" I ran up and saw a large super-computer looking thing in the middle of the small raised platform. David stood before several high-tech computers in front, clutching his injured arm as blood seeped between his fingers. "Here, take everything out of the bag and put it around this thing in a circle. But hurry, they'll be coming soon." Opening the bag I found several large bundles and started positioning them as David had instructed. When I pulled out one with some electronic device attached to it he stopped me. "Give it here." He was still in serious pain as he took it with his one good arm, the other limp with a tight bandana. "Keep going." A few seconds later we were finished.
"What now?" I asked as he placed his package on the computer's interface.
"We scram. Back the way we came. Fast." Then he pushed a button and said "Run!"
We dashed back through the carnage, him right behind me and clutching his arm. I jumped into the tunnel and heard him splash soon after. It quickly angled upward and got very dark, and I turned back to ask David where we were going. He just nodded without slowing down. We continued, following the tunnel until my hand hit steel grating. David almost collided with me and then pulled me to the right, where an invisible passage lead through the darkness.
"Wait..." he said quietly, and I turned blindly to see where he was. Then a small sliver of light shone just in front of us as he opened up a hatch. The sound of dashing soldiers and strange but familiar voices echoed up from below. It was the power sub-station, and we were now above the CP reinforcements. David checked his watch and muttered something. "On three we bust out and run--follow me."
Yelling the last number he slammed open the hatch and jumped out onto a catwalk high above the transformers below. I leapt after him, barely clearing the last pipe before a massive explosion shook the entire concrete room. A blast of hot air, dust and debris hit my back and I saw a cloud of smoke engulf the area below. Chunks of concrete fell like hail and the air became hard to breathe, but we kept going, both of us stumbled about before getting to the ladder. When we reached the top and climbed through a port into a blue room filled with more pipes and wires, David turned to me and said "It's all down hill from here."
I followed David through maintenance tunnels that he knew well enough to navigate with ease. Only three times did we see CP patrols when they passed over us on small metal bridges. There was another tunnel where the canal-runoff was stained red. "There's a checkpoint up there..." he told me as we waded through. After two more bends I saw a light and was hit with awesome fresh air. Just outside on either side of the tunnel exit were tall walls. This was a lock, and above on the right side were Civil Workers keeping busy. I could hear distant gunfire echoing slightly from a ways off, but the horror was long gone. My stomach dropped out as I remembered what I'd left behind. David crept forward, careful not to be seen from the far left through a connecting-canal between ours and the lock in front of the CP Headquarters, and clapped his hands twice before whispering "Hey, Charlie!"
Far above a worker's face appeared momentarily before two white hard-hats were thrown down. David caught one and handed it to me. "Look out." He said and I looked up in time to catch one of two orange-lined, denim CW jackets. "Nice!" I said as we disguised ourselves. David lead the way up the stairs, at the top of which we were handed boxes by the same worker, now hat and jacket-less, and directed to take them to warehouse three. I followed David as we walked casually with purpose through the workshops and storehouses until we found an abandoned one. Before entering, David took our hats and jackets and left them in a power box just outside the door, then took his box and entered, locking the door behind and placing the key in a two-way box on the wall.
"Welcome home. We're fugitives now I guess." He seemed shaky, and used to the pain in his arm which looked as bad as ever.
"Dude you should really get that checked out."
"Ah, yea..." He inhaled through his teeth painfully, putting down the box and suddenly looking green. "That was all on adrenalin, man, I tell ya." he half laughed, half gasped out, hunching over. "I feel terrible now."
"You look it too." I said, then heard a noise in the cluttered warehouse. Looking around all I could see were boxes and crates stacked disorderly and awkwardly. Then I saw there was a catwalk lining the inside wall about thirty feet up with a door at the opposite end. "Where is everybody?" I asked.
"Other end... Let's go." David shook himself into clarity and marched through the maze of wood and metal. We reached a door to a flight of dark concrete stairs, and after about three stories we hit another strong metal door. David knocked twice and said "Yo, open up. It's me and John Wilkes Booth."
"What's the password?" a breathy voice demanded from the other side.
"Oh shut the fuck up before I kill you with a spoon!" David retorted and bolts began to slide open as someone laughed. As he walked in ahead of me he said "Medic--oof!" and was almost clobbered by a small mass that suddenly collided with his mid-section. Grimacing in pain but beaming with joy I saw my friend hug one of the only people he would in the world while blinking back tears.
"Welcome back, Comrade Mouse, I see you've brought a visitor?"
"Nah, Newman, he's a new resident. Guys, meet Garrett. Garrett--guys. Now where's that medic? I've got a hole in me."